Sunday, 26 May 2019

Major hotel booking sites come under fire

I frequently use hotel booking sites when I need a quick night somewhere and want some choice. 

But the major hotel booking sites are still skewing search results, using pressure tactics and claiming false discounts despite a major clampdown, according to new Which? research reported by TravelMole.

In February, the British Competition and Markets Authority accused Expedia, Booking.com, Trivago, Hotels.com, Agoda and Ebookers of using unfair practices and ordered them to stop using measures that could mislead customers.

They were given until September to comply, but an investigation by Which? has found that sites are still using tactics to pressurise customers, including not displaying full costs upfront, giving a false impression of a room's popularity and dishonestly claiming that rooms are discounted.

For example, Trivago's site advertised a deal with Expedia for the Paris's Millesime hotel for £244 in February, which it claimed was a saving of 63%, but this was only compared with the most expensive price on another site, not the average, said Which? 

When its researcher clicked through, the 'pricier' site was actually offering the same room for £240 - £4 cheaper than Expedia.

Trivago also has really annoying TV ads
Pressure tactics such as "one room left at this price" and "booked four times in the last 24 hours" can manipulate customers into parting with their cash quickly by giving the impression that the offer is time-limited, Which? reported.

The consumer organisation said 44% of its members agreed that seeing the prompt "only one room left on our site" would influence their decision to book.

In some cases, however, Which? found that these claims were bogus. For example, when Booking.com was advertising 'the last' double room with private external bathroom at the Balmore Guest House in Edinburgh, Which? reported there were another seven doubles available with en suites at the same price.

Buyer beware. And consider booking direct with hotels to get the best deals. 

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Laugh yourself silly on Norfolk Island

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival roadshow will be rolling onto Norfolk Island - the perfect getaway for anyone looking for a quiet break with a belly load of laughs thrown in. 

Five of the festival’s star comedians from Australia and New Zealand will hit Norfolk Island on August 3. 

The cast includes Urzila Carlson (from my hometown and who used to work on the same paper as me, just a few generations earlier). 

You'll know the South African-born comic from Have You Been Paying Attention and Spicks and Specks. 

Others on the bill include Bob Franklin, Xavier Michelides, Mel Buttle and Dane Simpson. 

The Norfolk Island Travel Centre has announced three-night and seven-night Norfolk Island Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow packages including return Air New Zealand economy class ‘seat plus bag’ airfare to Norfolk Island, pre-paid airline taxes, meet and greet at Norfolk Island airport, return airport transfers on Norfolk Island, three or seven nights’ twin-share accommodation, three or seven days’ car hire, entry to Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow on August 3, plus discounts and bonuses. 

The package is priced from $1199 per person twin share ex-Sydney August 2-5 or $1299 per person twin share ex-Sydney August 2-9. Similar deals are available from Brisbane. 

For Norfolk Island Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow packages, contact Christan Davies at Norfolk Island Travel Centre on Toll Free 1800 1400 66 or christan@travelcentre.nf  

https://www.norfolkislandtravelcentre.com/events/melbourne-international-comedy-festival-roadshow-on-norfolk-island

Friday, 24 May 2019

MONA unveils new entertainment precinct in Hobart CBD


The operators of Hobart's MONA are to open a new 24-hour entertainment precinct in Hobart city centre.

After two years of planning, Melbourne’s Riverlee and MONA's DarkLab have announced a new $5 million cultural and entertainment district to be known as ‘In the Hanging Garden’.

Encompassing nearly an entire city block, ‘In the Hanging Garden’ will be a live music and cultural precinct opening at 8pm on June 5 to coincide with the start of the 2019 Dark Mofo festival. 

After the festival concludes, the precinct will remain open and operated by DarkLab year-round, seven days a week.

The first stage of the development has the Odeon Theatre at its heart and encompasses the renovated former Tattersall’s Hotel, and extensive outdoor dining, beer garden, and entertainment areas with food trucks, rotating pop-up kitchens and night markets.

The precinct fronts Liverpool Street, Watchorn Street, and Murray Street.
 

Riverlee development director David Lee said: "“It was actually David’s [Walsh] suggestion that at first, we open up our doors and let the city in. We agreed that before we can design a ‘cultural’ precinct for the people, we first need to bring the people into the precinct - to give them the opportunity to explore the site, interact with the space, and to create their own culture.

“It has been an enjoyable journey thus far, and we are both excited and humbled with the opportunity to partner with DarkLab on this project, to deliver something truly unique for the city. And with our partners, we are committed to our vision - to transform this site into a vibrant cultural precinct for the city and the people of Hobart.”

DarkLab director Leigh Carmichael said if Hobart is to assert its reputation as a cultural leader in Australia, these types of projects are essential.

“We have a vision for this site to become a significant cultural facility in the heart of Hobart," he said. "We hope it inspires a reinvigorated CBD, and that other businesses can also capitalise. There is momentum building in Hobart at present, and this project has the potential to be a game-changer for the city centre.”

The Odeon Theatre will feature live music at weekends with a capacity of 1200, while there will be outdoor dining, a beer garden and pop-up kitchens seven days a week. 

Altar will offer live music on ground floor of former Tattersall’s Hotel, while High Altar will be a nightclub on the first floor. 

After Dark Mofo concludes, the Odeon will be programmed and operated by DarkLab, with an increase in programming from a dedicated team. Post-festival programs will be announced in July.

See www.altarhobart.com.au and www.inthehanginggarden.com.au

Pawesome! Luxury hotel chain welcomes dogs in rooms


A leading hotel chain has launched a new initiative that will allow dogs to accompany guests in their hotel rooms.



Ovolo is introducing dog-friendly rooms to all at all its properties across Hong Kong and Australia.

This new offer will provide pet-friendly rooms in every hotel for an additional cost of $AU80 per night.

Each room will be decked out with a plush dog bed, a no-mess eating and drinking mat and separate food and water bowls.

Dogs that sign up for the V.I.Pooch' plan can also enjoy a designer 'Doggy Bag' containing woof-worthy dog toys, healthy dog snacks and handy poop bags to bring along on walks, hikes and adventures all around town.



Up to two furry friends are permitted per room, giving dog-owners the opportunity to travel to top destinations in Hong Kong and Australia, staying in the cosiest of spaces with their best friends.

“Dog-friendly rooms across Ovolo? Why not?," says Girish Jhunjhnuwala, founder & CEO of Ovolo Hotels Group.

"Most hotels decline to welcome prized pooches to their properties, particularly in Hong Kong, but we're not most hotels. We're thrilled to offer this unique perk to extend our ethos of effortless living.

"Trips are more fun with your best friend, so why put your V.I.Pooch in a kennel? Your furry friend can snuggle into their own bed and dig in to a special doggie bag curated just for them."

For more information and to book, visit: www.ovolohotels.com

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Qantas vs. fat flyer


An obese man has claimed he was "fat-shamed" by Australian national airline Qantas after being told he was too large for his pre-booked exit row seat.




Darren Beales, from Geelong, made a major media fuss by claiming the request to move seats on the flight from Melbourne to Brisbane amounted to public fat-shaming.

Mr Beales had pre-booked an exit row seat.

But when he boarded he asked cabin crew for a seat belt extension, as the regular belt is too small to fit him.

He was then told he couldn’t sit in the seat he had booked and was made to move once everybody was on board.

Which seems fair enough to me. People in the exit row are required to help in the case of an emergency. This bloke could only have got in the way.

Under Civil Aviation guidelines, passengers who are travelling with an infant or child or someone who requires assistance in an emergency are not permitted to sit in an exit row.

Safety comes first; not bruised egos.

Which is commonsense - something this bloke appears to be severely lacking.

Radio 3AW reported Qantas have since contacted the fat flyer and offered him a $120 refund for the extra leg room he purchased but did not get to use.

Terracotta Army invades Melbourne

The Terracotta Warriors will tomorrow invade Melbourne for a landmark exhibition at the National Gallery on Victoria International. 

In a dual presentation of Chinese art and culture past and present, the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series presents China’s ancient Terracotta Warriors alongside a parallel display of new works by one of the world’s most exciting contemporary artists Cai Guo-Qiang. 


 Developed and curated by the NGV, Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality is a large-scale presentation of the Qin Emperor’s Terracotta Warriors, which, discovered in 1974 in China’s Shaanxi province, are regarded as one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century and widely described as the eighth wonder of the world. 

The exhibition features eight warrior figures and two life-size horses from the Imperial Army, as well as two half-size replica bronze chariots, each drawn by four horses.



Presented in parallel, Cai Guo-Qiang: The Transient Landscape features all new art works by contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang inspired by his home country’s culture and its enduring philosophical traditions

Created especially for this exhibition, highlight works include the installation of 10,000 suspended porcelain birds, Murmuration (Landscape), 2019. 

Spiralling over visitors’ heads, the birds create a three-dimensional impression of a calligraphic drawing of the sacred Mount Li, the site of the ancient tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuang, and his warriors.


Tony Ellwood AM, the director of the NGV said: "Thirty-six years ago, in 1982, the National Gallery of Victoria presented the first international exhibition of China’s ancient Terracotta Warriors only several years after their discovery. 

"History will be made again in 2019, when the Qin Emperor’s Terracotta Army will return to the NGV for the 2019 Melbourne Winter Masterpieces exhibition series – this time in a sophisticated dialogue with the work one of China’s most celebrated contemporary artists, Cai Guo-Qiang."


This exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, in partnership with Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau, Shaanxi History Museum, Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Centre, and Emperor Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum of the People's Republic of China.

It will will be on display from May 24-October 13 at the NGV International, 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne. Members $24, adult $30, concession $25, child $10, family (two adults + three children) $65. 

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Calling cheese and chocolate lovers

Swissôtel Sydney is going back to its Swiss roots by serving cheese and chocolate fondues again this winter in Sydney CBD. 

Fondue is a uniquely Swiss culinary experience and its history dates back to the 18th century. At Crossroads Bar in Swissôtel Sydney, the culinary team has recreated a traditional fondue recipe best enjoyed during the colder months.
The Swissôtel Sydney fondue recipe is a combination of two Swiss cheeses - Emmental and Gruyère, Kirsch (a clear fruit brandy), white wine, garlic and a secret ingredient, all blended together and served in a pot. 
The house-made Swiss fondue is enjoyed with crusty baguette bread, cornichons, pickled onions and cos salad. 
Diners can personalise the flavour of their fondue dip to suit their tastes by adding Fourme d'Ambert blue cheese, Gorgonzola Dolce blue cheese, truffle or all three. 
Dipper options will include kipfler potatoes, spiced meatballs, slow-cooked flat iron steak (served pink), seasonal vegetables (carrot, capsicum, broccoli), grilled portobello mushrooms, pork salami, beer-battered chips, potato rosti, prawn cutlets and baguette bread.
To complement the experience, Swissôtel Sydney has curated a special beverage menu, which pairs perfectly with the fondue, including Swiss-inspired cocktails, Josef Chromy Pinot Noir, Pike's Riesling, Kirin Apple Cider and mulled wine.

For those with a sweet tooth, Swissôtel's chefs have created a blend of Swiss chocolate fondue accompanied by marshmallows, pound cake, strawberries, pineapples, kiwifruit, crushed peanuts and almond flakes. 
Dippers include churros, waffle sticks, pretzels, mini doughnut balls, ice cream, bananas and strawberries. 
Lorraine Mercuri, general manager of Swissôtel Sydney said: “The overwhelmingly positive feedback from guests last year encouraged us to bring back the traditional Swiss fondue experience to Swissôtel Sydney this winter. 
"Fondue is an authentic Swiss culinary tradition, which is best enjoyed with friends and family during the colder months, and our culinary team have introduced new fondue dippers to make the experience more exciting for all.”
The Swiss fondue is available at Crossroads Bar in Swissôtel Sydney, every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 6pm-9pm from May 30 to August 31. 
The gourmet experience is priced at $34 per person with a minimum of two people per booking. Accor Plus members can enjoy a complimentary glass of house wine and 10% discount.